The How and Why of Sex Differences

Sexually dimorphic psychological adaptations

Men Are Rated as Less Facially Attractive Than Women?

The 8 percentage point male attractiveness deficit.

Heads up, guys.  Recently  there were a couple of blog posts here that reported on some data that could be of concern to men around the world.   It is true that we have not yet heard much outrage from them so far. But wait until the news really sinks in that research found that men were rated as less facially attractive than women. There are almost 3.5 billion men in the world. Man (no pun intended), I'm glad that I wasn't the messenger of that news.

To wit, Kaufman and Wicherts found that about 50% of European American women were rated as facially "attractive" or "very attractive."  Only about 42% of men were so rated. Dude, that is a full 8 percentage points attractiveness deficit!

This difference is found regardless of racial group.  And, for any white male racists out there, here is some data to chew on. Kaufman and Wicherts reported that both black women (48%) and black men (46%) were rated as "attractive" or "very attractive" more frequently than were white men (42%).

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This overall sex difference, that women are rated as more facially attractive than men, seems pretty well empirically corroborated.  For example, see this and this.  And guys, if you think smiling will help, think again.   Man up, boys.  I guess that we should just get used to it.

Or, should we? There are likely to be negative real-world consequences of this for men. Social psychologists have documented the important impact that appearance has on many aspects of our lives. More attractive people, whether women or men, get better treatment from others in most areas of life, probably even in an emergency room.  And, when a ship is sinking, you have heard the saying "Women and children first!"  Remember the Titanic movie?   Ever wonder if facial attractiveness maybe has something to do with that?  And why Rose got to stay on the raft?

But why are men rated as less facially attractive than women? Is there something about our culture that results in this devaluation of male facial attractiveness?  Maybe it is the media?  Check this out -- the next time you are waiting in line at the supermarket, look at the magazine covers.   Most of the people on the covers are women.  And most of them are very, very good looking.   Only a small percentage of magazine covers have a picture of a man.   And even if there is a man, often he is not, well, very attractive.

Or, if it is not our culture that accounts for the sex difference in ratings of facial attractiveness, maybe evolution has something to do with it.  One possibility is that, due to the process of sexual selection, more attractive ancestral women had higher levels of reproductive success.  According to this theory, over time women actually did become better looking, on average, compared to men. This possibility was actually brought up in a previous blog post that was written by someone.

Or, maybe it is a complex interaction between nature and nurture.  As I have argued previously, this is always the right answer.  The question is this: is what we call attractiveness  a sexually dimorphic adaptation?

Even if it is, what can be done to reduce this 8 percentage point male attractiveness deficit?   Something should be done about this, right? 

How about we lobby for more pictures of men on the covers of magazines?  And, I'm talking about pictures of good looking men.   Perhaps by seeing more pictures of good looking guys, the attractivenss ratings of all males could be raised by a point or two.  And, what about makeup?  This is virtually unexplored territory. If guys were allowed a bit of foundation and eyeliner, without negatively affecting their manliness, could that help, too?

Bottom line: we need to be aware of lookism.  And we should be aware that, on average, the data isn't looking good for men.

 

Sources for images:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_8IUsyoeCzRs/S00fyIgZzYI/AAAAAAAAGzE/ace...

http://img2.timeinc.net/people/i/2008/news/080728/christie_brinkl...

Michael Mills, Ph.D. is an associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

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